A Critical Look at Mega Man 4 Stages: Dr. Cossack Stage 2

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After warping in, we find ourselves presented with a choice of two ladders. It's unfortunate that nothing else of note was done with this room, but the following room is neat. The Minoans will both drop immediately if we take the left path, but Mega Man will be safe on the ladder since they treat it as ground. If the player doesn't know this, they can try to shoot through the lower one before the other falls, or retreat down the ladder.

The upper Minoan won't drop if the player takes the right path until Mega Man slides through the gap, but shooting the thing it's hanging from will bring it down, giving us another case which rewards the player for thinking to fire through a wall. The large refill on the next screen is in an interesting spot, and useful if you know what's coming next.

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That light-blue thing on the ceiling drops a Docon periodically, which rolls along the floor and takes one hit. Their placement works well, as they both act as a grind spot for the Rush Jet energy we'll need here and can get in the way when summoning Rush, though weapons can destroy the generator if you need to.

At only four screens, the Rush Jet section doesn't even require using half of its energy, though the refills are harder to reach now that Rush is always moving forward. A bigger disappointment is the enemies chosen for this, consisting only of Togehero. This game had a few other flying enemies that would have made this challenging, and they could even have included a ceiling with falling Puyoyons, or put one of the turrent-like enemies on some of the platforms, or...anything.

I wouldn't normally mind a short and sweet Jet section so much, but this is the only time it's required in the game, so this was their one chance to do something neat with it.

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These platforms are a new hazard. The arrow on the side flashes four times, after which it switches which sides the spikes are on. The arrow can flash at two different speeds, which determines how fast it switches. That would be a cool idea that makes the player pay attention to what the block is doing rather than learning one time interval. However, I have never noticed that until this playthrough because it doesn't matter in the slightest on either screen.

In both cases, the blocks change once on a delay from each other, then again at the same time, then repeat. Every moment that the player needs to jump is the one where they change together, making the fact that they're delayed on the reset moot. It's sad to see that idea utterly wasted in the implementation.

Also, since the player likely entered these screens with Rush Jet still equipped, they're already set to skip it. The second screen is one of the few cases where Balloon does something Coil can't, as Rush won't land on the ladder or platforms.

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The next area is a fairly standard room full of enemies, and contains another obligatory high wall we need to Rush/Item our way over (twice, if we want the refill). The spike pit works well with Mono Roader, as a player can easily get flustered if they're not used to handling them yet. The last bat is in a good spot, knocking players who jump before they spot it into the spikes.

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I like this screen. The first Minoan isn't likely to hit us as the player can just keep climbing to avoid it, but the second will drop on the heads of anyone who slides after the refill without thinking. The only way to avoid damage in that case would be to quickly select Bright and stop it on the upper platform. It's neat having both the trap and a way to negate it if the player falls for it. Skull Barrier can work too, but you'd have to hit twice while it's falling.

The next room is a standard refill room with a breakable barrier (use Drill), but we have a Ladder Press to contend with. Since the way in is at the bottom, we'll have to lure the press upward so we can get enough height to drop in, though it's possible to get in immediately by climbing up and dropping just before Mega Man touches the press.

The last room offers a life, and this is another case where the secret items help us out. Rush Jet and Coil can only reach the spiked platforms, but Balloon and Wire can lift us right to the top.

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The Square Machine moves across the screen in three sections at three different speeds, and at the slowest speed it'll snap together and start shooting at us. We need to jump inside, then use the moving platforms to attack the glowing weak point. It's weak to Dust, and doesn't take damage from anything else but Drill and Wire, so we can't use Pharaoh or Dive to avoid the platforms.

An entire hostile room is a fun idea for a boss, and once inside it presents a good challenge in trying to hit it as much as possible without getting shot. However, the rest of the fight doesn't seem to have been thought through very well. It seems to have been inspired by the Yellow Devil, with players having to dodge bits of it flying around before attacking it. It will crush the player (for four damage) if they're pushed against the side, but in this case "dodge" consists of just sliding back and forth in the middle of the room until it slows down. Again, fighting the weak point itself works well, but players have nothing to do when it splits besides wait.

Despite my griping here, the stage isn't that bad. It has a good flow to it, doesn't stick with any one thing for too long, and we get plenty of opportunities to make use of our arsenal. My complaints with it lie only in the missed opportunities of the boss pattern, spike blocks, and toothless Jet section. If I was seeing this for the first time I'd expect to see the latter two later in the game, but neither appear again after this.

The visuals are fairly bland, but the windows showing the snow outside are a nice touch and help remind players of the world they're in.